By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Republican lawmakers in Wyoming are advancing legislation that would appropriate more than $5 million toward border security efforts in Texas, Arizona and Florida.
SF0166, “Border wall and sanctuary city transport,” was filed by Republican state Sen. Larry Hicks, with Sens. Dave Kinskey, John Kolb and Cheri Steinmetz co-sponsoring. Republican state Reps. John Bear, Donald Burkhart, Mark Jennings and Ember Oakley filed the House companion bill.
The bill would appropriate funds to construct “a border wall along the southwest land border as specified; … to aid other states in transporting non-citizens of the United States to sanctuary cities located in other states; and providing for an effective date.”
It would allocate $3 million to the office of the governor, allowing the governor to enter into a contract with the state of Texas to help fund construction of the border wall and transport non-citizens released by the Biden administration into the U.S. to so-called sanctuary cities in other states.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the first governor to build a border wall on state land and the first to transport foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally to sanctuary cities, announced Monday that Texas was moving forward with border wall construction after the first phase was completed last year and the second phase began in December.
The Wyoming bill would allocate the money to fund “partial construction of a permanent border wall along the southwest land border between Texas and Mexico and for the transportation of non-citizens of the United States from Texas to sanctuary cities in other states.”
Of the $3 million, only $250,000 can be used “to transport non-citizens of the United States from Texas to sanctuary cities in other states.” The bill would require in the contract between the two states that Texas “submit an accounting outlining legitimate and reasonable expenditures made for the construction of the permanent border wall along the southwest land border and the expenditures for transporting non-citizens of the United States from Texas to sanctuary cities in other states.”
The bill also would appropriate $2 million for the governor to enter into a similar contract with the state of Arizona to also contribute to Arizona’s “partial construction of a permanent border wall along the southwest land border between Arizona and Mexico and for the transportation of non-citizens of the United States from Arizona to sanctuary cities in other states.” It also stipulates that Arizona could not use more than $250,000 to transport foreign nationals in the country illegally to sanctuary cities and requires Arizona to submit accounting information.
The bill also would appropriate $250,000 for the governor to enter into a contract with the state of Florida to assist it with transporting non-citizens from Florida to sanctuary cities in other states, and require Florida to submit accounting documentation.
If passed and signed into law, the legislation would become effective July 1, 2023. If the funds allocated for these states aren’t spent or obligated by July 1, 2024, the governor may expend them according to the bill language.
The bills state that the record apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals, including those on the terrorist watch list and with criminal convictions, and unprecedented amounts of drugs seized in fiscal 2022 are negatively impacting Wyoming’s residents.
It cites more than 2.3 million encounters of foreign nationals apprehended at the southern border in fiscal 2022, nearly five times the population of Wyoming. It excludes the over 630,000 gotaways — those who entered illegally and evaded capture by law enforcement. That’s also greater than the population of Wyoming.
In addition to the nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl seized by Border Patrol agents in fiscal 2022, the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation reported that law enforcement officers seized more than 17,000 grams of fentanyl in 2021. It excludes the amount of fentanyl Texas law enforcement has seized in the last nearly two years alone, which is enough to kill everyone in the U.S.
“The illegal immigration of non-citizens of the United States at the southwest land border negatively impacts the state of Wyoming’s economy and places a burden on Wyoming law enforcement agencies,” the bill states. “Construction of a permanent border along the southwest land border between the United States and Mexico constitutes a public purpose and provides substantial benefits to the health and welfare of citizens of the state of Wyoming.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the bill on Thursday by a vote of 3-2.